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Heather Cox Richardson

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posted by Peter Stevens alias nordique on Thursday 3rd of February 2022 09:31:01 PM

February 3, 2022 Heather Cox Richardson Feb 4 Comment Share Today, President Joe Biden announced that U.S. special operations launched a counterterrorism mission against the leader of the Islamic State militant group, ISIS. Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi took control of ISIS after the death of previous leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who killed himself in October 2019 during a raid by U.S. troops. Qurayshi was located in a safe house in northwestern Syria, and as U.S. forces approached, he detonated a bomb killing himself and the 13 women and children in the quarters with him. Critics had charged that Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, begun under former president Trump, would injure U.S. credibility in the fight against terrorism. Thanking U.S. armed forces for their skill and bravery, Biden indicated his critics’ assessment had been misguided. “Last night’s operation took a major terrorist leader off the battlefield, and it sent a strong message to terrorists around the world: We will come after you and find you,” Biden said. Biden’s handling of tensions with Russia has also strengthened the nation’s international hand. Russian president Vladimir Putin has demanded extraordinary concessions, and rather than weakening the resolve of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, his aggression has united them. And, according to Edward Luce of the Financial Times, they are united behind U.S. leadership. “It has been years since that sentence could be written with a straight face,” Luce wrote. “Russia has brought about what it fears—a west that is displaying something approaching resolve.” Today, U.S. officials claimed to have evidence that Russian intelligence intends to create a “very graphic” video, involving actors and corpses, that claims to show a Ukrainian attack on Russian speakers in order to justify a new Russian invasion of the neighboring country. Britain came to a similar conclusion. British diplomat James Roscoe tweeted: “Russia says it will never invade Ukraine. Unless it is provoked. So *just in case* it is provoked, it has massed over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. But how is it that they are able to anticipat[e] that provocation? Perhaps because they are planning to stage [it]?” Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), former CIA analyst and former acting assistant secretary of defense, tweeted that a classified briefing was “a powerful reminder of just how much warfare has changed.” The Russian plan to stage a false attack on Russian troops by Ukrainian soldiers is “insane behavior,” she said. “​​Disinformation & misinformation are real tools in the Russian toolkit, as are cyberattacks that could deliberately target American & NATO civilians.” Disinformation remains a weapon at home, too. Josh Dawsey, Rosalind S. Helderman, Emma Brown, Jon Swaine, and Jacqueline Alemany of the Washington Post this morning broke the story that on December 18, 2020, extremists proposed to former president Trump that he use the powers of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Department to try to prove that foreign countries had swung the 2020 election. It suggested he could direct the agencies to sift through the electronic data from phones, emails, social media, and so on, automatically collected by those agencies but against the law to use to target individuals without a court order. After the election, on November 9, 2020, the White House pressured the Pentagon into naming a lightly qualified 36-year-old Trump loyalist, Michael Ellis, to become the top lawyer at the NSA. The appointment was problematic and thus Ellis did not take charge during Trump’s term, but the decision to appoint him over career civil servants perhaps bears more attention even than it got at the time. While the proposal never went into effect, its backers did send it to Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Ron Johnson (R-WI). Senator Cynthia M. Lummis (R-WY) also attended a meeting on January 4 in which attendees alleged (falsely) that foreign governments had affected the vote. “[W]hy the heck did these R[epublican]s not alert the FBI, totally failure of conscience and their oaths,” wrote Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post. It’s a good point. Meanwhile, reporters continue to dig into the history of the false electors who claimed Trump had won their states. Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, and Luke Broadwater of the New York Times today revealed two legal memos from a lawyer affiliated with the Trump campaign providing legal rationales for the fake electors. “[W]e are,” he wrote, “trying to have an alternate slate vote, in hopes that its legitimacy will be validated….” One memo, dated November 18, 2020, by Kenneth Chesebro, justified the casting of fake ballots; another, dated December 9, 2020, focused on overturning the certified ballots for Biden. It urged the fake electors to meet in secret, sign fake documents, and submit them as if they were real. Chesebro worked to find loopholes in the mechanics of the process to enable the fake electors to seem legitimate. “Michigan is much more specific about the location in which the electors must meet,” he noted, “which could be a bit awkward.” “Nevada is an extremely problematic State, because it requires the meeting of the electors to be overseen by the Secretary of State, who is only supposed to permit electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote in Nevada,” he wrote. “In conclusion,” he wrote, “it appears that voting by an alternate slate of electors is unproblematic in Arizona and Wisconsin; slightly problematic in Michigan (requiring access to the senate chamber); somewhat dicey in Georgia and Pennsylvania…; and very problematic in Nevada.” Chesebro’s cool analysis of how to overturn our democracy is chilling. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, notes that the committee members are paying attention to the churning news about the insurrection. Trump’s comments over the weekend about pardoning the January 6 rioters spoke of his intent: ““If this violence against the Capitol wasn’t part of the plan, or wasn’t something he condoned, then why would he consider pardoning them?” And yet, the Republican National Committee is doubling down on its support for Trump, its resolution committee tonight voting unanimously to censure the two Republican representatives on the January 6 committee: Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Ahead of the party vote, Cheney said: “Leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon Jan. 6 defendants…some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy. I’m a constitutional conservative and I do not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump. History will be their judge.”

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